There's Only One Rule for Successful Weight Loss

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If you are struggling to lose weight, you know how difficult it can be to cut back on calories without feeling hungry all the time. Creating a caloric deficit at the end of each day is the key to losing weight and keeping it off.

This simply means you need to consume fewer calories than your body needs without starving yourself. You can also add more physical activity that burns extra calories to create the deficit needed. Where many go wrong is that they try to reduce too many calories at meals or work out way too hard, either of which can cause them to burn out too quickly.

The one rule for weight loss is to create a consistent caloric deficit. This is the first step in helping you reach your weight-loss goals. To create a caloric deficit, you need to understand the relationship between calories and energy.

Calories provide the energy your body needs to perform everyday activities. When you eat, your body breaks down the food and uses the energy from the calories for functions like breathing, walking and thinking.

This is the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). There is a typical number of calories you will burn each day just living. For a ballpark estimate, most women burn about 1,500 calories per day and men burn about 1,800 calories per day, depending on their size and normal activity levels.

My personal recommendation is to eat the number of calories of your BMR each day, then find a way to burn 500 calories in a day. For reference, you burn about one calorie for every 20 steps of walking; 10,000 steps in a day can burn 500 calories. By burning 500 calories a day, you will lose a pound of weight each week. If you observe this daily eating limit and miss a walk or physical activity, you are still within your BMR limits and will not gain weight.

Here are some ways to lose weight and tips to help you on your journey to reaching your goal:

1. Calories In: Monitor Your Diet

Keeping track of what you're eating is essential if you want to lose weight. Keep a food diary and track your caloric intake to ensure you're not overeating or consuming too many unhealthy foods. It is tough to choose a diet option, as there are many programs (Weight Watchers, Noom, etc.) and diets that are completely opposite from each other (vegan vs. carnivore).

For a diet to work, you must have a caloric deficit. Whether you eat fewer carbohydrates, restrict the times you eat (intermittent fasting) or eliminate a food group altogether, burning more calories than you consume is the ultimate cause for weight loss.

Here are more ideas that can help:

Cut Back on Sugar

We are typically sugar addicts. Sugary foods are a major source of empty calories and can lead to weight gain. Try to limit your sugar intake and opt for healthier alternatives, such as fruit, nuts or yogurt.

Drink Plenty of Water

Staying hydrated is important for weight loss. Aim to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. If you are adding in physical activity, you should add more than this minimum daily recommendation (50%-75% more is fine). This will help to keep your body functioning properly and curb hunger.

Avoid Processed Foods

Processed foods are usually high in calories, sodium and low in nutrients. Try to limit your intake of processed foods and opt for more whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Here are some nutrition ideas.

Eat More Protein

Protein is an important nutrient for weight loss. Aim to get at least 20-30 grams of protein with each meal. This could include items such as eggs, lean meats, fish or beans and nuts.

Portion size is the most important eating issue for most Americans. Overeating is a common problem, and as a country, we are showing it. Make sure to pay attention to your portion sizes and don't eat more than you need. One of my helpful tips is to eat your meal on a salad plate and eat your salads on a dinner plate.

2. Calories Out: Physical Activity and Exercise

How are you going to burn the calories you consume? Can you outwork your diet? If you have a manual labor job and are constantly moving all day, you might. Most of us cannot outwork a high-calorie diet, especially as we age beyond our 30s.

Exercise is an important part of any weight-loss equation. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. This could include anything from walking to taking a yoga class. Mix in some resistance training like easy calisthenics or weighted exercises using dumbbells, sandbags, TRX bands or gym machines. Check out the Military.com Fitness pages as there are hundreds of workout ideas for all levels of fitness.

3. Prescription Drugs, Surgery, Medical Assistance

Not everyone can walk 10,000 steps a day. Perhaps there are eating disorders that are best treated with medical assistance. These procedures still require work but are often a helpful starting point for many who cannot move more and eat less. Consider more professional help if any of these suggestions seem like an impossible way to begin your journey.

Finally, creating a caloric deficit doesn't mean you have to starve yourself. You can still enjoy your favorite foods by eating healthy versions of them. For example, instead of frying a greasy hamburger, try grilling a lean turkey burger.

Losing body weight can be rewarding in so many ways. You will be so excited with your first 10 pounds of weight loss, and that success will sustain you to keep going. It's important to stay motivated (and disciplined) and keep your eyes on the prize. If you remind yourself why you are doing this and follow these tips, you will be well on your way to achieving your weight-loss goals.

-- Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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